I am currently a Skywest FO in training for the CRJ side.
Started my flight training March 2017 at Trenton NJ (KTTN) and instructed with ATP at FXE Spring 2018.
After ATP I instructed at another South FL school, instructed on my own, performed ferry flights, contemplated 135 Jets & Piston Twins, considered Banner Towing, flew to Cuba, the Bahamas, Up/Down the East Coast and Miami to LA.
During this time I had a variety of experiences, made a lot of good friends and met many people in different parts of the aviation community.
ATP Review: I started 2 years ago and things change often in this industry and at flight schools. ATP is no exception.
-When I was a student at KTTN it was an overall good experience. The key to doing well in the program is to minimize training delays under your control (Studying, Chair Flying, Pro-active with Instructor).
- For planning purposes I would factor in a 1-2months of training delays. My 2nd week, ATP changed my 6month program to a 9month program; after mostly uncontrollable delays it took me 12months.
- If you want faster, minimize delays like weather, move/train in South East or West.
- CFI school can be a big delay (Checkride delays). Let ATP know you are willing to take the Checkride at any location and they might ship you out (Saved me 3weeks).
- Can you work while training? Depends on who you ask, who you are, and what job you have. I had a great boss, and I made my own schedule. I was able to work 16-25hrs per week on average. This will NOT work all the time and is NOT recommended by ATP or myself in most cases.
Climb to 1500:
- You will NOT fly better aircraft (at 98% of other flight schools and 135ops). ATP maintenance is unmatched. Yes it is annoying when planes are squaked but the vast majority of other flight schools do NOT have a standardized fleet, and the maintenance is questionable. This was my favorite part looking back.
- Pay: I don’t know if they changed the pay structure again but I can affirm that if it is the same as a year ago, they are about Average (Location Matters on what AVG). But at a lot of other places you have to work more hours for the same amount of pay. Not sure how detailed I can go in this forum so I’ll keep it at that.
- Location/Hrs: Depends on timing. You want good Instructor/Student ratio about (1/5) and good weather. At some flight schools you can fly more hours per month (Fly South, fly on side(If ABLE)).
Other Options: 95% will take longer to hit ATP Mins.
- Banner Towing - I did some practice picks for a company. The picks are fun but the rest of the time is boring. At big companies you might do reposition flight. Overall I didn’t because of 1yr Contract and degrading IFR skills.
- 135/Corporate - Can be awesome or terrible. Depends on Company. IMO, only do if 1. You want to do it or don’t mind 6-12month delay to airlines, 2. Company pays for PIC Type Rating, 3. 1year contract at the most.
- Ferry/ Contract/ Skydive/ Make Friends - Walk around every FBO and Ramp, go to local aviation events and talk to everyone. You will meet very interesting people and hopefully make great friends. I made life long friends doing this and picked up some fun flying that added extra hours. Just make sure the aircraft is airworthy and safety is priority.
Overall- If you can, go South or out West. Combination of better weather and larger flying community means more hours per month.
Airlines - Make your own pro / con list. Seniority and Upgrade is everything if your young and can move around. That is why I chose SkyWest and the CRJ. These things change every MONTH!!! Do your homework and remember things change very fast. Apply and interview at multiple airlines.
I am very happy with my choice to start at ATP. If you have a 2 or 4 year degree I would highly recommend it as being the fastest reliable way to the airlines. 1. Make sure it is financially feasible ($25-35,000 salary next 2yrs). 2. Make sure you can handle a fast paced learning program (mostly self-study).
Hope sharing some of my experience helps,